Catalina: A first class trip to modern Australia

The Rose Bay establishment boasting first-class modern Australian cuisine with classic mediterranean flavours has served guests from far and wide for well over two decades. Sporting lavish waterfront views with nearby sea planes taking off, and polished white interiors paired with genuine service by the friendly staff and owner, it’s clear to see why Catalina has continued to thrive over the years since its inception.

Arriving in our (attempted) affluent attire to compliment the restaurant’s character, we made our way to the balcony for a round of cocktails with the thrill of knowing sunset would soon approach and we’d have the best seats in the whole of Sydney that evening to relish the moment.

We commenced with the Dino Dreams cocktail ($25), a whimsical concoction of jacaranda st. purple vodka, limoncello, egg white, sugar, and unicorn tears; as well as the La Vida Loca ($26), a piquant fusion of vida mezcal, galliano vanilla, passion fruit puree, lime, tabasco, and passionfruit chilli roll-up. The latter won our hearts – an exceptional blend of spice and citrus.

To follow, we sampled the Sydney rock oysters (shucked to order); a small selection of natural ($6 each) and caviar ($20). If you’re attending for an intimate lunch or dinner (groups of two or three), I’d recommend a plate of six with the caviar pairing.

For our entrées, we enjoyed a solid array of vegetarian and seafood starters: the parmesan custard tart with spiced tomato chutney, zucchini blossom and truffle sauce vierge (v, nf); the dukkah crusted yellowfin tuna with smoked garlic aioli, pickled cucumber and lemon infused olive oil (gf, df); and the poached Western Australian marron with miso butter, yuzu mayonnaise, daikon and furikake. Note: These starters are included in the fixed-price a la carte menu (three courses for $130 per person).

As we took pleasure in the rainbow of flavours, the dish we couldn’t get enough of was the marron – the miso butter sauce is to die for! I’d say for something especially unique during a fine dining experience, the parmesan custard tart will most definitely do the trick. It’s greatly palatable and has an intriguing aftertaste that will leave you in wonderment.

We paired these with a ripe and refreshing white (Marc Bredif Vouvray Classic 2019) boasting “a lovely vivacity where one finds agreeable notes of grapefruit on the lingering finish”. A delightful match to the array of platters.

Before tucking into our main, we took pleasure in the liquid magic of Catalina Dreams ($24), a sensual merge of belvedere grapefruit vodka, cointreau, passion fruit puree, lime, agave, and pineapple and coconut foam. This devilishly handsome cocktail was not only aesthetically pleasing, but also beautifully appetising – a great choice between courses for cleansing the palate with its tangy twist on the classic piña colada.

For our main, we had the glacier 51 toothfish with fermented chilli dumpling, pickled turnip, radish, and wakame consomme. The incredibly light dish hosted subtle and elegant flavours and textures with its faint soup and the delicate fish; embodying a classic, French impression. For something heavier that provides more comfort, I’d suggest the burrata risotto or the eggplant and ricotta tortellini.

As the warm sunset turned to a wholesome violet, it was time for the final course. We decided on a selection of both sweet and savoury for the concluding indulgence: the chocolate peanut butter delice with olive oil sponge and roasted banana ice cream, as well as the full cheese selection paired with a quince paste. And my, oh my.

I’d most definitely put forward the cheese plate – a mastered ensemble of fine cheeses accompanied by the sweet, red quince and earthy crackers. The chocolate peanut butter delice was equally as satisfying and in such an opposing way with its rich flavours consisting of nuts and cocoa; each layer telling its own story.

We paired the two desserts with a tempranillo (Ladorne de Cabama, 2014) “a juicy, structured and delicately oaked Rioja, with liquorice, cherry, and tangy red fruit supported by fine slippery tannins”. A great pairing for chocolate-themed dishes and cheese boards.

With Catalina’s primary aim to ensure that the dishes they serve are always superb, their wholesome mission should be considered accomplished. We cannot wait to dine here again and see what else Sydney’s best fine dining spot has to offer as we head into the cooler months.

Images supplied.